The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky (1919, Tr. 1936/1995)
Nijinsky’s diary, the result of a six-week outburst of writing, at first glance grants us once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a descent into madness of a genuinely brilliant mind.
I don’t mind the slight disorder.
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Dance first, think later. That’s the natural order.
The Litera(p)ture of Ontological Limerence
The intermission has ended. We are back inside the Mansion of Litera(p)ture and our tour continues. So far we have sauntered around the enchanting Vestibule, the desirable Kitchen/Home Cinema and the obsessive Crawlspace. Where are we headed now? Are we going to snoop around on the first floor a little bit more or should we better go upstairs? Fact of the matter is, we don’t have much choice. The Mansion has decided for us. Or perhaps we, having been slurped back by its voracious interior, simply hit the newel post with our knee. Upon finding the banister, we begin to wonder: what kind of stairs have we just bumped into? Or better yet, stairs leading where?
Why three dates in the title and who the hell was Vaslav Nijinsky you may ask. Well, answering the second question first, Nijinsky was a ballet dancer and choreographer active in the second half of the 1900s and 1910s who revolutionized the ballet and made huge impact on its modern form. Hailed back in the day as “The God of Dance”, he was a principal dancer for the Ballets Russes founded in 1907 by Sergei Diaghilev, a then world-famous Russian impresario. Moving on to the first question, the first date tells us when the diary was actually written, the second – when heavily abridged version (although the more precise term here would be “completely butchered”) was released by Nijinsky’s Hungarian wife Romola de Pulszky. The third one is the year the unabridged version was finally published. But enough of this biographical mumbo jumbo. For Nijinsky’s diary, the result of a six-week outburst of writing, at first glance grants us once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a descent into madness of a genuinely brilliant mind. At second, though, allows us to construct something truly extraordinary and remarkable – a staircase leading to the upper floor of our Mansion of Litera(p)ture.
The Metaphysical Shift
The unavoidable feature of any series of texts with a “common denominator” if you will, is the necessity to contextualize by repetitions. Making sour faces about this unfortunate prospect, I promise to encapsulate and recap the following repetition as tightly and lightly as possible. In my last text before the Intermission, I interpreted the two main characters from Crash – Ballard and Vaughan – as demonadized obsessed conjurers of reality full of lascivious technological desires, mainly intermingling sex with physical deformities sustained from car accidents. The said reality was so separate that it prevented anyone form stepping in to participate, unless you yourself were obsessed (with the same or at least similar objects of your dark desire). The two men succumbed to their minute and dark perceptions and shut themselves off from the rest of the world as thoroughly as it was virtually possible. Or so it seemed, for Nijinsky pushes it even further, totally unintentionally of course. Allow me to quote monsieur Deleuze:
(…)we have seen that the world was a unique, infinitely infinite, converging series, and that each monad expressed it in its entirety, even though it clearly expressed only one portion of the series. But, rightly, the clear region of a monad is extended in the clear portion of another, and in a same monad the clear portion is prolonged infinitely into the obscure zones, since each monad expresses the entire world. (…) That is the very condition of “compossibility,” in a manner of reconstituting over and again one and the same, infinitely infinite, converging series, The World, made of all series, its curvature having a unique variable.
This “reconstitution” or, rather, its alternative – remodeling – is our key concept here. For Nijinsky’s “clear region” is not only far from being extended “in the clear portion of another monad” (turning compossibility into incompossibility or even impossibility in the process), but is most definitely withering away, coiling upon itself, getting minuscule with every second going by. The darkness prevails, canceling the converging series down to the last infinitesimal. The rambling style of Nijinsky’s diary – with its short, barren, almost primer-like syntax, loaded with repetitions and contradictions (some of them utterly brilliant, full of insightful sensitivity, only pretend to be paradoxical by nature) regarding his life, wife and her relatives, key politicians of his era (Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George), his turbulent relationship with Diaghilev and several other members of artistic society – seems like a passage leading towards something beyond incompossibility. Where else should one go, when everything that remains is nothing? And what about this whole alternative remodeling?
The dance-in Staircase leading…where?
As a kid a had this recurring dream. I was playing in front of my block of flats on a see-saw or swing when out of the sudden a stentorian voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time announced if I don’t get back to my apartment, something bad will happen. Then, a 10 to 0 countdown commenced, and the time was dethroned in favor of his slower bullet “nephew”, Matrix or Max Payne style. Most of the times, I managed to be back in my apartment on time (which caused me to wake up). However, on four or five occasions I didn’t. In hindsight, these were one of the most off-the-rocker experiences I have ever had in my life. All the geometry was altered (the squares were round and the triangles had trapezoidal shapes (please don’t ask how it was even possible, because I don’t know), gravity had different properties (it repelled and its repetitiveness was inconsistent), as well as all the ontological notions about me as a particular human being, with such and such personal records, history, etc., were completely erased. It seemed as though I was not only thrown into a different mode of reality, but also the feral countdown has eradicated me as a particular human being and substituted with someone else (simultaneously, I didn’t feel as a swapped individual, everything seemed unchanged). To this day I can vividly remember Escher-like situations, during which going upstairs lead you downstairs, or better yet – sidestairs (don’t ask, just imagine!), jumping didn’t result in landing (although it didn’t resemble short-term weightlessness either), and entering various apartments (including my own) ended in handling a disgruntlement among baffled neighbors who were fuming over some estranged strange kid, most likely a youngster thief, who didn’t think twice about breaking and entering. When I finally reached my apartment, my parents didn’t recognize me. Then, at one point, after a bout of vivid adventures which had taken place on the staircase (a different one each time – a teleportation to Venice where an ominous cloud of pigeons loomed over the city, a confrontation with a slightly shorter cousin of the Slender Man, etc.), I simply succumbed to a sinking feeling and burst out of the dream back into the wake.
Why am I boring you with this lengthy reminiscence? Because Nijinsky’s state seems almost as if he has gone somewhere sidestairs. Literally. Yet, due to some unknown or indefinable factor, which escapes particular as well as general metaphysical credibility, he seems perfectly OK with himself and his perception of the world. He seems engaged in its being with whole of his might, ability and feeling. Illustrating his everyday life as a somewhat sidetracked dancer/choreographer (the diary begins on a day of his last public performance), husband and father with his crude yet honest style, he expresses irritation, disappointment, excitement, which are not that all too different from those of a so-called rational and mentally healthy human being. Surprisingly, his relation to the world (let alone his relationship with God!) seems more affectionate and heart-warming than majority of his peers would ever express. So what God orders him to go lay in the snow until he cannot feel his arm. So what a couple of sentences later he calls himself God. So what his writing seems abject of him as an individual who should be somehow (being-somehow – here regarded in a purely metaphysical sense), who should follow some somehow (‘somehow’ taken as a noun here) thanks to which, under normal circumstances (never mind the term ‘normal’; it is too questionable to define it here…), not only would he be compliant with the prevailing and widespread notions of social human behavior, but also would curtail his own exquisite penchant for sheer brilliance as an individual entity. For Nijinsky is the entity which rejected every possible should (again, ‘should’ as a noun), therefore is able to feel limerence towards the world. His stairs of infatuation, Escher-like, unfold before him. And he is trying out his new dance moves. He might be rehearsing his new mode of being without repetitions. Does it have any folds? Is it going to withstand Nijinsky’s explosion of writing? And where would it lead him, ultimately, with us, hitchhikers and voyeurs, jumping on the bandwagon of his non-negative disunity with the whole world? Well, it definitely leads somewhere. Where? Why should I be the one to ascertain where exactly? All I have is this unsure premonition that every limerence might turn into passion. But let’s not put a cart before the horse, shall we?…